Dear Prime Minister,
At the last General Election, the Conservative Party made a manifesto commitment to tackle homelessness and to halve rough sleeping by 2022. Since then, considerable progress has been made with the Homelessness Reduction Act and the Rough Sleeping Strategy. Nevertheless in 2017-18 a shocking 103,000 young people were homeless or at risk in the UK. As Prime Minister you have the power to give these young people a future.
The Centrepoint Helpline regularly hears from young people who have been turned away at their local council office because they cannot ‘prove’ they are homeless. This dangerous gatekeeping of life-saving housing services is a direct result of funding shortfall. In light of evidence on the scale of need, central government must review funding for the Homelessness Reduction Act as a priority. Centrepoint estimates that an additional £10 million is needed to support young people alone.
Give young people a #ChancetoMoveOn from homelessness
It is important to recognise the unique circumstances homeless young people face; they often become homeless as a result of family breakdown, yet the current system still relies on them being able to ask their parents for financial support. As a result, they receive much less through the benefits system and are effectively denied the chance to move on from homelessness. Under 25s do not pay less rent simply because of their age. So why - when applying for Universal Credit - do they receive an average of £160 less to help with rent each month?
Centrepoint believe that homeless young people deserve a fair chance to find a long-term home. We therefore urge the government to extend the exemption from the shared accommodation rate of Local Housing Allowance to include 18-25 year olds. The shared accommodation rate is meant to cover the cost of renting a room in a shared house, but it rarely does. Even if it did, shared accommodation is not always appropriate for those dealing with ongoing trauma. An exemption already exists for over 25s who have lived in a homeless hostel for more than three months. Will you commit this government to extending this exemption to 18-25 year olds in the same situation?
Cover the real cost of rent
Support for housing costs is one of the biggest barriers young people face when they are ready to move on from supported accommodation and into work, which is why we believe the Local Housing Allowance must be urgently addressed. If the private rented sector is to play its part in tackling the current shortage of housing supply, the Local Housing Allowance should be brought back in line with the 30th percentile of market rents. By helping young people on the path to independent living, this government can free up vital bed spaces in hostels run by charities like Centrepoint.
Invest in youth services
Without the right support, homeless young people are at risk of getting caught up in criminal activity and becoming a target for gangs or exploiters. In order to make young people feel safe in their local area, more youth centres, sports clubs and youth activities are needed. Youth services provide a space for recreation which can combat isolation and put young people in touch with trusted professionals. If this government is serious about investing in the next generation, they must guarantee funding for local youth services.
As the UK’s new Prime Minister, it is in your hands to change the story for homeless young people.